It's not difficult to update the tired old cheese ball with fresher flavors and better cheese. In a continued answer to a question from a reader, here is one of my favorite party recipes.
It riffs on a classic combination of flavors: pungent blue cheese, toasted walnuts, and fragrant rosemary. Highlighted with tiny crunchy poppy seeds, these flavors meld into a wonderfully deep and complex treat that sets the idea of a cheese ball on end.
Even with the addition of cream cheese, the blue cheese flavor in this is very strong. In fact, this is fairly rich and pungent , so do be sure to use the cream cheese.
Blue Cheese and Rosemary Cheese Ball
makes one 1/2 pound cheese ball
4 ounces very soft blue cheese
4 ounces (half package) full-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon red wine
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup poppy seeds
Leave the blue cheese and cream cheese out to soften for at least half an hour. In a small food processor chop the walnuts in short bursts until they are in large chunks. Add the cheeses, rosemary and wine, and blend until it has an even consistency. Taste and add salt and pepper.
Scoop out the soft cheese mixture and let it firm up for about half an hour in the fridge. When it is the consistency of cookie dough, take it out and shape it into a ball. Roll in poppy seeds until well coated. Put back in the fridge to harden again. This will keep for a couple days and the flavors will develop as it sits.
Serve with dark wheat or rye crackers.